Friday, October 23, 2009

16 bit apps get degraded treatment even in 32-bit Windows 7

Now this is not a very way to treat 16-bit apps
The other day I migrated one of my laptops from Windows XP to Windows 7 and copied over the Microsoft Entertainment Pack games which I've always enjoyed playing. Guess what! The horrible Explorer wouldn't show icons for ANY of the 16-bit executables but instead shows a generic program icon! First, I thought I must have installed 64-bit Windows 7 by mistake but no this has got nothing to do with 32-bit or 64-bit. At a time when I used Windows XP Professional x64 edition, Explorer had no problems showing 16-bit icons. A little searching brought me to this article by Raymond Chen which confirms my fear - the "feature" was dropped in Windows Vista apparently because the code was obsolete and not so secure. 32-bit or 64-bit processes don't extract icons from 16 bit resources any more. But why does the shell team not understand that this decision degrades the user experience and just because they haven't come across anyone using 16-bit software today doesn't mean people don't. Instead of making the same old maintenance cost vs time vs value argument, why not prevent the experience from degrading? The current behavior essentially makes all Win16 apps look like MS-DOS apps. Sheesh!

Plus, the new taskbar ensures that users using 16-bit applications continue to have a degraded user experience. If a 16-bit program is pinned to the taskbar, it appears as a separate button (two instances) when launched/running. Looks like the Live Messenger 2009 team influenced this.

This issue has been discussed here on MSDN. I e-mailed Raymond Chen and he replied that he would add my request to the other requests being made of the user interface team so they can prioritize it appropriately. Which means that a feature that worked in previous Windows versions won't be fixed right away with a higher priority or may never be fixed (as MS crawls towards 64-bit).

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